How to win at blog planning in 5 simple steps
A couple of weeks ago I asked my blogging friends this question on Facebook: “What do you feel your biggest blog related challenge is this year?” Two key words that came up a lot were FOCUS and TIME – more of both please, they said!
I blog when I have something to say/inspiration and because of that it’s not very regular, it comes in fits and starts, I need to work out a way to keep the posts coming.
Does this resonate with you? It does with me – this is me before I started planning what I wanted to write about, before I became a pro-blogger (albeit part-time with two little ones!) and realised I needed to be more organised about my time.
Does that sound a bit like work to you? If that puts you off, don’t worry! I still have plenty of space for writing about whatever takes my fancy, but now I can actually limit my time blogging, if I want to, and free up time for other things – like joy and fun and life!
So I thought I’d share some tips about my own blog planning and organisation and the tools I use – I don’t pretend to be an expert, this is just what works for me! I’ve split them up into 5 easy to follow steps, so let’s dive straight in shall we?
#1. DECIDE WHAT DO YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT
Whether you’re a write-when-the-mood-takes-you blogger or have some thoughts about what you’d like to write about in advance, there are probably some key themes that run through most of your blog posts. They could be parenting, food or technology for example, they might correspond with your blog categories if you use them. My key themes this year are: Journey to Joy, health and fitness (including food), parenting and blogging tips.
If you don’t have themes already, take a look at your posts from the past 3 months and see if you can categorise them under headings. Or, if you want to change the direction of your blog, decide what themes you’d like to write about and make a list of them.
This is your go-to list for inspiration when bloggers-block strikes. Type any of your themes into Google and see what comes up. Is there a news story that catches your attention? Write your take on it. Is there a piece of research that has been published that relates to one of your themes? Write your view of the results. The options are endless.
Now let’s use the list to get a bit more organised…
#2. DECIDE HOW OFTEN CAN YOU WRITE/POST
There’s only a finite number of hours in the day and, let’s face it, if you’re a parent then you probably want to use any spare time to have a HOT cup of coffee or use the loo on your own for a change! But if you can carve out some time in your day for blogging then you can optimise that time by knowing how often you want to post on your blog. Otherwise it can be all too easy for that time to whizz by while you get distracted by your emails or browse Etsy.com *ahem*.
The team at Co-Schedule wrote a great post about saving time through blog planning recently, which used some simple maths to help organise your writing. Here’s how it works…
Let’s say you have 2 hours per day that you can use for blogging. One of those hours you could reserve for what I call blog maintenance; everything from fixing broken links (I use the Broken Link Checker plug-in for WordPress for this) to replying to comments and reading and commenting on other blogs. That leaves you one hour for writing. How many posts can you write in one hour? That depends entirely on you, but let’s say you can comfortably write a post in one hour including formatting the images you want to use (I use PicMonkey for this by the way).
That’s 7 hours per week or 28 hours in an average month. Right, schedule it into your diary, planner or whatever you use to remind you to do stuff. If it’s planned in, it’s more likely to happen. I do my best writing early in the morning before the little people get up, then save commenting and other tasks for later on in the day when they’re at school/nursery or if the toddler takes a nap.
Great. Now let’s say you decide you want to post twice a week on your blog. That’s roughly 8 posts a month.
If you have 4 themes that you want to write about – that’s 2 posts per month for each theme. If you have a regular linky that you host (like my Share the Joy link up for posts that make you smile) then you’ll need to factor this in too.
So now we know the rough theme of our posts and how many of each theme we want to write per month. Of course you can be flexible about this – inspiration can strike at any moment (usually when I don’t have a pen and paper to hand!) but it will give you some structure around your writing. I add some weighting to my themes so that, at the moment, my Journey to Joy theme takes the front seat and has more posts than say blogging tips. Your blog, your call.
#3. SCHEDULE YOUR POSTS
Right, here’s the big hairy tip that really changed the way I blog. Scheduling. When I started getting serious about blogging I took my list of posts, split by theme, and planned them into the month. I didn’t have titles yet, or in some cases know exactly what I was going to write about, but I put them in anyway and then added a reminder to write the post a few days before.
Suddenly I knew what I was going to write, when I was going to write it and when it needed to be done by. Woop! I started off doing this in my paper planner but soon graduated to the fab Co-Schedule app because it integrates with my blog and because I can also use it to share my posts too – neat eh? More of this in a mo.
Here’s how my schedule looked a couple of weeks ago:
You’ll see that my posts are mostly Monday, Wednesday and Friday (although I chucked a few extra in one week) and that I’ve also scheduled in social media messages to promote each post. There are also tasks I’ve added to remind me to write – it’s like having my own personal blogging assistant!
If you want to learn more about Co-Schedule I’ve written more about how I use it here.
#4. SHARE YOUR POSTS
Ok, your post is written and published and you want to shout about it to the world – you have to go to each of your social media channels and share the link. It can be tedious right? That’s why I’m such a big fan of Co-Schedule – again! Each post that I publish in WordPress pops right up on my Co-schedule calendar and I can just click on it to add social messages for all my Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Linked In accounts.
The only thing that would make it better I think is if, like Buffer, another sharing app, you could access your Twitter followers list to make it easy to add people’s when you’re writing a Tweet. Other than that it’s pretty darn perfect. (They’re working on a mobile app at the moment apparently – can’t wait for this!)
Ok so we’ve talked about what to write and when to write it and post it, but what about making it all better? There are some fab tools out there that you can use for FREE to optimise your blog posts. This is a long post and I know you’re probably gasping for a cup of tea so today I’ll just talk about two of them to get you started…
Optimise your headlines:
The Co-schedule Headline Analyzer is great for working out the best title to use for your posts – this is key because it’s the first thing that people will see when you share your content and you want it to really grab them and make them want to click through – advertisers know a lot about this! You simply type your headline into the Headline Analyser and it gives you a score out of 100. I use it for every post that I write and I find it really helps me to focus down on what key words describe my content – really important for SEO.
For example here are the titles that I tested for this post and their scores:
Optimise your hashtags:
Hashtags identify different topic areas and they can help get your content seen by people who are interested in particular subjects. So many apps use them now, but how do you know which hashtag to use? Hashtagify analyses hashtags and relates them to each other to help you decide. There are lots of pro tools on this site too but the basic hashtag encyclopedia does just fine. You type in the main hashtag you’d use for your post i.e. blogging and it shows the top 10 hashtags related to it with a popularity ranking. Pick the most popular and add them to your social messages. Done.
So now it’s over to you – I’d love to hear how YOU plan your blogging. What tools do you use? Do any of the tools I’ve mentioned sound like they’d help you be more organised about posting and sharing? Would you like to see more of these sorts of posts at Bod for tea? Let me know in the comments!